Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Will Jesus’ Tomb Bury Christianity on Capitol Hill?

The atmosphere here on Capitol Hill is growing more and more hostile toward the people of God as the new congressional leadership hunkers down for a long siege against religion. The new secularists on the Hill see religion as a threat to their political agenda and philosophy—and boy, are we feeling the heat!

Now comes another boost to embolden the enemies of faith. Filmmaker James Cameron (of Titanic fame) has partnered with a discredited investigative journalist and self-proclaimed Indiana Jones to make a Discovery Channel documentary purportedly proving Jesus never rose from the grave.

In a recent New York news conference to hype “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” Cameron and his business partners displayed what they claimed were stone boxes (called ossuaries) that once contained the bones of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ “wife.” They say the boxes were part of a larger find that included other bone boxes for Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his “son” Judah.

Amazingly, the story follows closely novelist Dan Brown’s fictitious tale The Da Vinci Code, later made into a blockbuster film staring Tom Hanks. How amazingly “coincidental” that this supposedly colossal story would break just as we approach Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection. Of course, it’s Mr. Cameron’s intent to cast doubt on that pivotal event for Christians.

I’ve done a lot of interviews on this subject during the last week. I talked about it on my Faith and Action Live missionary field report, too. I’ve also posted a lot of material about it on our Faith and Action website. ( While it doesn’t intersect precisely with our mission on Capitol Hill, the story most certainly affects it indirectly. Here’s how: Since the change in congressional leadership and—as many believe—the specter of a Democratic White House in ’09, the anti-Christian sentiments here have exploded exponentially. This kind of attack—especially by Hollywood—suggests to the secular elite that Christian cultural moorings are giving way. They’re looking for anything that will help “finish us off.”

I did all I could to demonstrate this story is not what it appears to be. It’s a farce, and I proved it by presenting the facts. To my utter amazement, two days after I launched my first response, none other than the Washington Post agrees! Today reporter Alan Cooperman had a headline story on page A3 entitled, “’Lost Tomb of Jesus’ Claim Called A Stunt.” Believe it or not, I’m urging my circle of friends to read and distribute this article—it’s the best yet at debunking this story. (

Thank you Mr. Cooperman for an excellent expose of this modern-day circus sideshow!

Just before I went on the Internet today, I dashed across the street to the Supreme Court where the justices heard arguments for and against President Bush’s program on Faith Based Initiatives. US Solicitor General Paul Clement (a believer) argued for the President and the Administration in support of funding faith based social programs. Outside the courthouse I caught up with my good friend Jay Sekulow who was very involved in this case. He felt it was a winner for our side. I later saw my erstwhile nemesis, Barry Lynn, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He seemed resigned to a loss. I affectionately slapped him on the back and told him (with tongue in cheek), “Barry, you’ve got to keep the faith!” I told the same thing to a representative of the Beltway Atheists who agreed it was a loser for him and his fellow religion haters. (This was the guy who authored his group’s slogan, “Stabbing religion in the neck with a screwdriver.”) I always treat these guys with the love of Christ, as St. Paul said, “Heaping hot coals on their heads.” More importantly, we love them in Christ, waiting for that breakthrough moment when their soul cries out for Living Water!

Last item of the day: After public comments I made about Governor Mitt Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), one of our Faith and Action supporters—a member of the LDS himself—invited me into a dialogue on things religious. I took him up on it and spent more than an hour with him this afternoon. It was a delightful exchange. I learned a lot about LDS beliefs that I didn’t know previously. I’ve also been invited to a gathering where Utah Senator Orin Hatch will talk about his journey of faith in the LDS church. In both my teaching and practice of evangelism I have always asserted that gaining a hearing begins by listening. I figure it’s my turn to listen this time. After this experience, I’ll speak. Pray for me in this worthwhile endeavor. It’s our mutual intention not to try and proselytize one another, but simply talk to each other candidly. While I have enormous theological differences with the LDS, they are at the same time our allies in the struggle to reclaim moral sanity. So, if nothing else, I will come away with a better comprehension of what LDS people are all about. More on this as it moves along.

For now, I’m over and out!

1 comment:

Jeff Wismer said...


I am the representative of Beltway Atheists whom you report in your blog "...agreed it (the religion-based initiatives case being argued before SCOTUS) was a loser". What you report in this little blurb is so far out of context that it is, for all intents and purposes, a false characterization of what I said. Can you say "false witness"?

When you approached me on the street, I had just come from our demonstration on the steps of SCOTUS. I was not privy to the proceedings inside and I certainly was not expressing a legal opinion. My one-liner was nothing more than humorous, self-effacing cordiality. It doesn't seem possible the it could have been mistaken for anything beyond that. And it seems more than a little self-serving that you would report it as something other than what it was. But, perhaps a mixture of denial, wishful thinking, and the apparent need to make us look bad to your support base made you report it as if it bore any significance. No matter how insignificant, irrelevant, innocent, or inconsequential a comment might be, to purposefully misconstrue it is no less of a falsehood and, frankly, smacks of desperation.

To anyone concerned with scrupulous handling of the truth, my quip could not reasonably be construed to reflect either the secular community's view of the merits of the case, or our view on the constitutionality of the religion-based initiatives, or our expectation that the Supreme Court will do the right thing by ending government handouts to religious institutions. So, I wouldn't take much comfort from such impromptu remarks.

And what was the remark in question? As we were shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, you asked me how I thought it went. My response, as you recall, was that ,lately, these things usually seem to come down 5 to 4 for your side. You responded that we "Atheists needed to have a little faith".

We, on our website, could just as easily have reported that a high level spokesman for Faith and Action said that he thought we might win. But that would certainly have misreported your obviously humorous, self-effacing, attempt at cordiality. Your response to me was free of useful content and was neither mistaken for, nor intentionally misreported, as an opinion on the relative merits of, or eventual outcome of, the case. I took it as nothing more than banter and forgot about it.

It seems a bit much that I should have to correct you on such a trivial point, but I feel that the truth is important and, and worthy of proper respect and scrupulous observance on all sides. I have frankly, seen reporting on your blog which did not accurately and fully reflect the facts and, thus, represented a picture that diverged from the truth. If a cause is worthy, the truth should not need to be... modified.

BTW - thanks for continuing to publicize our motto. We've had requests for tee shirts and a new printing will happen in the near future. Just for the sake of accuracy, the full motto is "Stabbing Religion in the Neck With A Screwdriver since 2005". Its a little ironic that you find this offensive even as you talk about pouring hot coals on our heads as a way to inspire us into belief in a just and loving deity. I took it as humor rather than any sort of veiled threat, but it certainly evokes thoughts of the not very humorous Inquisition when such practices were gleefully carried out by the faith-driven, biblically-justified servants of a just and loving deity.

Naturally we expect that most people recognize that we are not actually stabbing anyone in the neck with a screwdriver, but rather that we are merely interested in raising legitimate debate about the claims and practices of religion in general as we are entitled to do under our Constitution and Bill of Rights. What is surprising and a little disappointing is that so many in this country take the position that religion is not open to question, that it is exempt from humor, immune from criticism, and entitled to special privileges. One thing the Constitution does NOT guarantee is a right to never be insulted.

Every time we have met in public, we have exchanged handshakes and pleasantries. I have always found you to be friendly and engaging. I think I have always treated you with the same personal respect. I hope we can always keep it that way. And while we obviously disagree on many things, let us scrupulously observe the truth in all our dealings. I seem to recall that your alleged deity expects that of you. And it is a Humanist principle which we think is an essential component of any system of ethics, fair treatment, and acceptable civilized human behavior.


Rick Wingrove